Welsh government expected to 'make changes' to Sustainable Farming Scheme

The Welsh government has confirmed it will likely 'make changes' to the controversial scheme
The Welsh government has confirmed it will likely 'make changes' to the controversial scheme

The Welsh government has said it would probably 'make changes' to its Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) amid growing discontent directed at it.

Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths met with farming unions to discuss the post-Brexit scheme, which aims to reward farmers who boost the environment.

The SFS, which has received huge backlash from farmers in recent weeks, stipulates, in its current form, that farmers must have at least 10% tree cover on their land.

However, a recent impact assessment commissioned by the government found that the SFS risked reducing 122,000 livestock units, representing a 'shocking' 11% fall.

In response, farmers have conducted go-slow tractor protests across Wales, and unions and organisations have held dozens of events and discussions, with some attracting thousands of participants.

Just last week, dozens of concerned farmers protested outside Ms Griffiths' own office in Wrexham.

Following the latest meeting with NFU Cymru and the Farmers' Union of Wales, she said "it was good to hear the feedback".

The minister added: “I meet with the farming unions regularly and I wanted to have a meeting as soon as possible after our SFS roadshows and theirs had been completed.

“Many of the issues discussed were common with those we heard from the 3,200 farmers who’ve attended the Welsh government events."

The Welsh government is currently holding a consultation on the SFS, closing for responses on 7 March, which Ms Griffiths called a 'genuine consultation'.

The Farmers’ Union of Wales, which has called for a rethink of the proposals, has called on farmers to respond to it.

FUW President Ian Rickman said: “As farmers, we understand the current strength of feeling and frustration of our members.

"We expressed these deep concerns and the resentment felt by our members and the wider rural community to the minister in no uncertain terms.

"The ball is now firmly in their court and we sincerely hope they take our requests seriously."

Ms Griffiths said she expected the Welsh government to 'make changes' to the scheme as a result of the consultation's responses.

"It is still open, and I would continue to urge people to take part and give us their views," she said, "We will consider every individual response.

“It is vitally important people take part in the consultation. Please do find time to respond as your views matter.”